Poetry: In Flight from the Green Forest | clivejames.com
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In Flight from the Green Forest

In the green forest of Petropolis
The Great Lady of the Madrugada
Walked with me the boundaries of her fazenda.
Toucans watched the paths that joined the valleys.
One of her ancestors freed the nation’s slaves
And it had come to this. Every man we met
Had a gun on him somewhere. “Rufino,
How goes it with the bloodhounds?” “They’re fine, madam.”
On the wall of the floresta hung quarezmas
Like purple china. In the late evening
I stood on the verandah outside her window
And watched the rain reflect her bedroom lamps
That were never dimmed. Below me on the lawn
Part of the night moved as a man looked up.
I saw his oil-skins gleam but not the barrel
Of his matt-black shotgun while he checked me out.
Next day, a car with an armed driver
Took me to Rio. Between midnight and 3am,
In the madrugada, I would often phone her
From wherever I was in the world,
And sometimes we would write, but she
Was too much for me. Her little empire
Was the only part of her ruined country that worked,
And she needed her own air force. What do I look like,
A contract killer? I’ve just got killer contracts.
I never shot anything that wasn’t cardboard
With a paper face. “Lady”, I would whisper,
“It’s time you slept.” As if she could do so safely,
Or even a fortress could be built to last
Where men, like ants in a disaster movie,
Can strip a culture bare-boned in five minutes.


(Spectator, September 4, 2004)

Painting by Stephanie Moran, 'Pool at the End of the World'
oil on canvas, 135 x 135 cm